I threw a cup.
There, I said it. Actually, I think I had better say it again, because I do not believe it as I read the sentence. I threw a cup. It was my momentum veritatis, and the milk splattered on the wall was witness to this truth, my foolishness.
And Steve was witness, of course. He was both witness and object of this hardness. I looked up and saw in his eyes something that, truly, I would never want to see. His eyes, though angry from our argument, held a bewildered disappointment. He was in disbelief. It killed me to see it. This was not the woman he married. I was not the woman I am. I was an absolute bitch.
There's no other word for it. I could call it childish, I suppose, but that is too anemic. I could say I was ‘wound up’ or that I lost my temper, or I could find myriad other ways to tone down the abject meanness of it, like we do, when we want to hide. The fact is, I was in a hot rage. I can tell you that it was a triggered moment for me (which is accurate, and a fairly important concept, by the way, for any of us who have known trauma – that would be all of us). But the fact remains: all through that day, through a long series of exchanges with Steve, I had been picking, prodding, complaining. And bitch upon bitch hours in a day cascade into class five rapids of bad.
Thankfully Steve remembers who I am. I don’t want to tread on that, of course, but - hush - hallelujah. He meets my controlling nature with strength, while still remembering who I really am. Life with Jan includes crazy cup moments simultaneous with drinking deeply from the admiration I extend to him, in my unconditional acceptance of him. He loves the lighthearted but intentional nature God has crafted in me. He watches, he says, with delight as people come to drink of the beauty Jesus has grown in me. As he tells me this, we delight in it together. I blush a bit, but can enjoy it because we both know how it can disintegrate, even with the raising of an eyebrow.
Somehow Jesus makes the fragile treasure of beauty in our hearts unshakable. Oh, cultivating it takes Conviction. Change. Intentionality. Choices. Turning from Self. Resisting Temptation. But Jesus is the one who is most committed to surfacing the treasure. He loves to surprise us with his personality, his nature. And he loves to show up in my eyes in kindness, surprising me, after I’ve found myself so far from home.
We are not always beautiful. So oh, when we are, all heaven and earth collide to say Amen. And we intrinsically know that the Amen cannot be forced. We grow weary of trying to either “manage the beast” – trying to make her good, or trying to repeat mantras of truth to make her go away. It doesn’t work. Something else has to come and wash over our beast, calming her and eventually replacing her. Unless a woman’s beauty, the very life of Christ within her, rises, then the beast will rise and cause her to feel like there is no beauty in her at all. The wonderful surprise is this: His beauty will always rise.
I love it when I’m there. Can I say it this way: some days I feel like I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and Steve relishes what he receives on those days. But the hidden truth is that on bad days I am also the woman who harps on him over many things he does and the choices he makes about how he will spend his day. I never thought I would be ‘that’ woman, but I am that woman on steroids. I am tempted, as I tell you this, to laugh about it, to make light of it. But I can’t. I am just beginning to see the impact my controlling nature, better said my controlling choices, have on Steve’s heart. If he was not the man he is, loving and strong enough to stand in my way when I’m like that, he would end up feeling only demeaned, emasculated and condescended to. He should. I treat him as if he needs me to think for him. Not exactly what causes a man, or anyone for that matter, to come alive.
You wouldn’t be able to discern it if you came to our home, but I have left a little bit of that splattered milk on the wall. It is a monument of sorts; an Ebenezer, my pile of stones, to the impact of a hard heart.
If all of this sounds too confessional, I understand. But it seems important for us to remember the full story. Our restoration is daily. And our surgeon is skilled at pinpointing the cancer in order to remove it, with kind precision.
I’m writing this as we head into Advent. In fact, I had the privilege of facilitating an Advent Day for a group of women yesterday. It was lovely, a good time, because something bigger, greater, more powerful always rises. The Spirit of Christ, the coming and coming again of Jesus. Without this convicting, releasing, healing power, we’d be a group of plastic Christians, singing songs of joy while our hearts remain sullen, manipulative and fearful. But the true life of Christ comes, so we find ourselves, surprisingly, beautiful. And we wait for even more.
I just read the above to Steve, asking him for his permission to tell the world what he lives with. He said, “Yes, but that is not who I live with.” That’s the point, isn’t it. There’s more beauty there than we know. What good news: Beauty Trumps Bitch.
It is this good news that has me working on a new book, Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me. It will be published by Bondfire books early next year. I’d be lying to say I’m only excited about it. I’m nervous (not entirely sure I want you to know the truth)! And I struggled with the title, just as some publishers did. But there is just no other word for what we can become. Exploring how the deeper thing, Beauty, always wins…well, I look forward to that.